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Hancock says no to funding arts council

FINDLAY - The Hancock County commissioners have turned down a $25,000 request to help fund an agency that oversees art programs in this city and the rural northwest Ohio county.

“We're all very sympathetic to their needs and what they do,'' Commissioner David Spahr said yesterday. ``But the county isn't ready to spend tax dollars on private organizations. It's starting a new precedent, and we're not ready to do that at this time.''

Commissioner Steve Oman agreed.

“Our philosophy is we shouldn't be using tax money for private organizations. The budget is tight,'' he said.

The Arts Partnership of Greater Hancock County is disappointed over the commissioners' decision, said Bill Hoffman, president of the agency's board of trustees.

“If the county were to provide us with funding, they receive in return revenue from sales taxes, hotel rentals, and restaurants. The programs bring additional business to the community,'' Mr. Hoffman said.

He said the agency hasn't decided what to do to make up the money.

“We'll need to reassess our upcoming 2001 budget,” he said. “We'll likely have to identify alternate sources of funding if available.''

In the past, the non-profit group, which sponsors cultural events and educational programs throughout the county, has been supported by the private sector. In October, the Findlay City Council voted to give the organization $25,000 in 2001. The group requested $50,000.

The additional funds sought from the public sector are needed to support the expanded offerings of the Arts Partnership, Mr. Hoffman said.

In 1997, a cultural plan was developed to enhance art and education in Findlay and Hancock County in response to community requests.

In 2000, about 45,000 people attended the partnership's programs and events, about 12,000 more than in 1999, Mr. Hoffman said.

The government money sought by the partnership would have come from the county's general fund, which comes from taxes, investments, and government fees, county officials said. The money is used, in part, to maintain the county's infrastructure. Numerous county roads and bridges need repairs, Mr. Spahr said.

Mr. Oman said he strongly supports the Arts Partnership.

“They do a tremendous job in the community. It's part of what Findlay is all about,'' he said.

But he added that the organization should be supported by the private sector.

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